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Well-being vs well-off

10 ways to improve your well-being, lessons from the world's 'Blue Zones', hot spots where people living past 100 is commonplace.

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Hypothetical case: Start working at 25, retire at 65, averaging 40 hours per working week. 40 years of working history, 48 weeks per year (say you take a month off). Throw in liberal sprinklings of unscheduled overtime.

Over a lifetime we can spend up to 80,000 hours at work. Scary huh? If your workplace fills you with dread, that’s a hefty chunk of time desperately waiting for Fridays. Not exactly a happiness-inducing way to live.

The Oxford dictionary defines wellbeing as “the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy” aka a positive physical, social and mental state. It may mean something slightly different to everyone, but my own definition? When mind / body / soul are in sync and flourishing.

Well-off refers to financial wealth, having more than enough to cover basic living costs. Being well-off does not mean you have wellbeing, much like how money doesn’t buy you happiness! I’m sure we all know someone who is cashed up, but emotionally poor and physically unfit.

How can we improve our wellbeing through our day to day actions?

I read ‘Lessons for living longer from the people who’ve lived the longest’ by Dan Buettner. Who the heck is Dan? He has a dream job – travelling the world as a National Geographic explorer, getting up close and personal with extraordinarily long-lived communities. He’s a bestselling author and longevity expert, and his insights into health, fitness, diet, and aging are in his book. It draws upon years of research on the Blue Zones, the longevity hotspots of the world such as Okinawa, Sardinia and Nicoya where centenarians are commonplace.

He had a fresh approach of reframing happiness across multiple time horizons, much like how you would view your retirement portfolio. I’ll call it the 3Ps.

purpose + pleasure + pride

Purpose (long term meaning eg government bonds), pleasure (medium term joy eg off the plan development which you sell upon completion), pride (short or immediate satisfaction eg day trading).

He also suggested incorporating statistically-driven strategies to optimise your environment for your long-term wellbeing. Some are obvious, some surprised me, and some are much easier to implement than others, see below.

10 ways to improve your wellbeing

  1. Live near water +10% happier (not financially plausible for most, however similar effects can be had by regularly visiting places with plentiful water sources)
  2. Reside in medium-sized cities +10% happier
  3. Bonus points for a bikeable and walkable city +10% happier (hurrah Melbourne, Copenhagen, Ljubjana, Amsterdam to name a few)
  4. Attain financial security, spend on experiences over ‘things’
  5. Develop a “pride shrine”- display pictures that trigger pleasant memories or awards that remind you of accomplishments in a high traffic visible area
  6. Get social – every quality new friend you add +15% happier
  7. Laugh daily, proactively find happy people who like to laugh
  8. Increase green plants inside your home
  9. Maintain physical and mental health +8 years to your life
  10. Only own one TV (and store it behind closed doors so watching is intentional, not mindless)

In all the Blue Zones, people could articulate their purpose in life. They knew why they woke up in the morning, they’d describe their responsibilities in detail, and they pursued passions well into their 10th decade.  They lived not only long lives but also rich, happy ones.

They didn’t trade off their wellbeing in a quest to become well-off.

The happiest people were also the most connected – they spent 6 to 7 hours a day socialising. Not superficial gossip, but meaningful conversations of depth and magnitude, something society in general has lost the art of.

Dan says asking people to change their behaviour doesn’t have much sticking power. “Most people forget, run out of discipline, or get bored after just a few months. …… Reshape your environment.” 

How can you reshape yours to inject more purpose, pleasure and pride in your life?

Image from G Adventures
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